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No jackpot justice in Escambia County tobacco suit

Billy Sulcer got in 53 years of smoking before he died of lung cancer in 1993 at the age of 66; his widow sued. An Escambia County jury found Sulcer 95% at fault for his own death, and $225,000 in compensatory damages, meaning that the final award will only be $11,250.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Matthew Schultz, suggests that the jury double-counted their 95% reduction because he had asked for $4.5 million in compensatory damages, but has to swallow his aggravation, since it ill behooves a plaintiffs' attorney who makes his living off of the sympathy of jurors to criticize that randomness when it works against him.

Demonstrating the essential randomness of non-economic and punitive damages, four earlier Escambia County juries awarded $6.2M, $20.4M, $3.35M, and $28.3M in tobacco cases, which are in various stages of appeal. [Pensacola News-Journal] Of course, it is almost a certainty that none of these seniors actually valued their non-economic and economic lives enough to insure themselves for millions of dollars in the event that they died of an unexpected aneurysm rather than at the hands of Demon Tobacco.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.